Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'm Just Like You and You're Just Like Me by John Wright

I’m Just Like You and You’re Just Like Me

                                                                                                                                                                                                     By John Wright

                When Cornelius met Peter in Acts chapter ten, Cornelius fell at Peters feet in reverence. Peter said to him “get up and stand on your feet for I am only a man. Not one of us is better than the other, and this lesson is clearly demonstrated in God’s word. How can someone read the bible and not see themselves? We are all children of the first family of Adam and Eve. After the flood it reset and we are all decedents of Noah’s sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The story of the human family is very inconsistent. We each have the capacity to dream great dreams, but we always fall short. We all have something wrong with us and the bible is the only place that tells us what it is. It’s sin!

                The depravity of sin is so terrible that it causes the whole world to fall under a curse. The curse is that if we are found to be in sin then we cannot be friends of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved Rom. 8:20-24

Peter told Cornelius in Act 10 that God sent a message of good news to the people of Israel that through Jesus there would be peace. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.

                I’m just like you and you’re just like me because God loves you and he loves me. The question is this, have you and God become friends? If you have not been reconciled by the blood of Jesus, you are still an enemy of God and a friend of the devil.

The bible says if you are in Christ you are a new creation Romans 5:18-1918 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners,so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

I’m just like you and you’re just like me in that God’s grace and mercy has been offered to us all. Like Peter we too are to be witnesses of Christ and willing and ready to tell others about what the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has done for us and in us.

                We all have so much in common, but if you are not in Christ, a believer who has said “I will obey God’s call” then you are not a child of God.

There is nothing in this world that matters if you do not have the gift of eternal life through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Repent your sins Confess Jesus as Lord and savior, be baptized and then live the resurrected life.

I’m just like you and you’re just like me and we are just like Jesus with our sins covered by the blood of his sacrifice.

28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-29

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent and Incarnation by Greg York

Advent and Incarnation               


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…

Matthew 1.18a


This season is observed in many churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, a season called “Advent,” from the Latin word, adventus, which means “coming.” Adventus, in turn, is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which commonly is used in the New Testament to speak of Christ’s return.


So: this season may serve us as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done for the birth of the Messiah as well as our waiting for Christ's return.


No, we don’t know the date on which Jesus of Nazareth was born, but what we do know is that the Gospel story for three of the writers begins with the story of that birth and (most importantly) God’s involvement in that birth. In other words, we are invited into the story of Jesus the Messiah at precisely that point of vulnerable humanity. Certainly, then, it is right that we think about and that we thank God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, his taking on flesh. Surely we thank God for his ongoing presence among us today through the Holy Spirit. If we allow it, this season can sharpen our focus on such things. And, this season can remind us to be in a constant state of preparation and anticipation of Christ’s ultimate arrival at the consummation of all things.


You see, just as Israel waited for Christ to come the first time, so we are waiting for him to come again.


How do you talk about “incarnation”? The “enfleshment” of the creator of the universe is not something we are equipped to explain, is it? In the incarnation, God is taking us beyond what we think we can know, let alone what we do know. The One who had spoken this world into existence lowered himself to live on this world. Jesus was a human being just like us — God in human form. That’s a rather jarring thought. (As a matter of fact, it always has been. Here’s an interesting irony: the first major heresies in the church were not denials of Jesus’ divinity, but denials of his humanity.)


John 1.1-4, 14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people...  And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Hebrews 4.15-16: …we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


Jesus is approachable precisely because he’s been where we are. Ever feel rejected? Jesus understands. Your family not treat you as you’d like? Jesus understands. People think you’re crazy? Jesus has been there. Feel lonely, like nobody gets it? Jesus has been there. Ever been overcome with grief? Jesus has been there. On and on we could go. It’s the human experience, and Jesus has been there.


But here’s something important for us to think about this season: Incarnation does not end with Jesus. Athanasius of Alexandria put it this way: “He became human that we might become divine” (On the Incarnation, 54). I think that’s a great, straightforward, succinct way to summarize why Jesus became flesh. Not so that we’d become “gods” in a “rule-your-own-universe” sense, but so that we would become godly.


2 Peter 1.3-4: His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.


2 Corinthians 3.18: …all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.


The incarnation of the divine did not end with Jesus. Instead, there is a sense in which it began with his life, and continues as our lives are lived in alignment with his.


May God grant that this season of recalling the anticipation before Jesus’ birth long ago will remind us to live in anticipation of his return and also remind us that in this waiting time we are to be an ongoing incarnation of God’s presence in this world. Until his return, may the Lord born so humbly continue to be present, “incarnated” in and through us.


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

   did not regard equality with God

   as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

   taking the form of a slave,

   being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

   and became obedient to the point of death—

   even death on a cross.


…for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

                                                                                Philippians 2.5-8, 13

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Remember by Terry Gardner

By Terry Gardner
Man’s nature is such that without effort he will forget what he should remember.  The butler forgot Joseph whom he had promised to remember.  (Gen 40:23).  Jeremiah asked, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire?  Yet my My people have forgotten Me, Days without number.”  (Jer. 2:32).  The children of Israel were to remember, “that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you.”  (Deut. 15:15).  If Israel would remember their bondage and how and why God had delivered them they would have been a grateful people, but they forgot.
Man also remembers what he should forget.  The children of Israel remembered their life as slaves in Egypt in a false light.  The Israelites remembered “the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.”  (Numbers 11:5).  None of these memories were accurate.  They lived as slaves, beaten and abused, while Pharaoh murdered their children.
Paul teaches us to “forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.”  (Phil. 3:13), and in so doing Paul said that he pressed on toward the “goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 14).  Human beings are sometimes so haunted by past sins that we fail to move on and be about our Father’s business.  When God forgives our sins they are “blotted out” and God no longer remembers them.  If we understand this fact and make it a part of who we are then we have peace.
What drives human memory?  Motivation.  For a TV game show a man memorized the value of pi to the 99th decimal.  Why?  For the monetary reward (gifts and prizes).  Understanding how things are connected also helps us remember what we should remember.  Isolated facts are difficult to remember.  The Feast of the Passover emphasized facts, which helped the children of Israel remember what God had done for them.  These facts included:
1.  The children of Israel were to take an “unblemished” lamb and they were not to break any of the lamb’s bones.
                        2.  They were to kill the lamb and put its blood on the two doorposts and                                     on the lintel of their houses.
                        3.  They were eat the lamb, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
                        4.  They were to eat in haste.
                        5.  When the LORD passed through to smite the Egyptians, he would see                                     the blood and pass over the door and not allow the destroying death angel                                     to kill the children of the Israelites.
The Psalms were written so they would be easy to memorize.  Note especially the 119th Psalm, which was written as an acrostic.  The 119th Psalm is composed of twenty-two sections of eight verses each.  Each eight-verse section is assigned a letter from the Hebrew alphabet and each verse in that section begins with that letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Christians are told to remember the words of the prophets and of Jesus.  Peter tells us to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”  (2 Peter 3:2).  “For whatever was written in an earlier time was written for our instruction (learning), that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  (Rom 15:4).  Jesus told the Apostles that when “their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”  (John 16:4).  “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give then to receive.’”
All of this said, you can’t remember what you have not studied and been taught.  Are we like the noble minded Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was true?  (Acts 17:11).  They had a passion to remember what God called them to remember and to forget all else.  Is this true of your life?

Friday, November 20, 2015

"What Is Safe?" by Frank Black


(F. Black 11/22/15)


        The above was the title to one of the best talks I have ever heard.  Dr. David Thompson, a life-long medical missionary in Africa, gave this inspiring message at the Global Missions Conference about a decade ago.  His point was that we are safe nowhere in our world today.  [Remember that his talk predated all our current world crises.].  He reminded us that our earthly life is temporary and our eternal home is with God [our ultimate source of safety].  Dr. Thompson’s talk came at a time when he and his wife were preparing to return to Africa.  He also knew quite personally what he was talking about.  Both his parents, missionaries in Viet Nam, were killed during the Tet offensive. His father-in-law, a missionary in Cambodia, was taken away by soldiers and never seen again. 


        So what about today?  Are we really safe anywhere?  The answer is a resounding “NO”!  Of course we exert due caution, but none of us is safe or immune to tragedy or terrorists.  The recent events of mass killings with ISIS bringing down a plane and their horrific Paris attacks show quite starkly that no one is safe.  So, do we cover our heads, retreat, and hide in fear?  Another resounding NO!  We must remember that the forces of evil are prevalent and ever present, but that our God is greater! 


        But I do think that the USA needs a “reality check”.  Something to shake us up, so that we again can see what is really important.  Here we are in a nation of surplus and wealth – a nation where much of the world would like to live.  I’ve known many well educated African people, and virtually all of them have as their number one dream to come and live in America.  But it seems that many USA nationals have grown complacent with our wealth.  It’s taken for granted.  So we see too many people self absorbed, immature, and overly concerned about being “PC”, name calling, feeling entitled, feeling like the ‘victim’, others being ‘intolerant’ of or ‘offending’ them - just add in the current fad or trend.  Frankly, much of this behavior is sinful – not what Jesus would have us be or do.


        So, what do I mean by a “REALITY CHECK”?  I mean something worthy of being really distressed about – not like much of the piddly stuff of today. Something like not enough food.  Most Americans today cannot conceive of such a thing – real hunger and when it’s virtually impossible to get food.  I’ve used the phrase before, but we Americans have the “Blessing of Location”  as opposed to being the Victim of Location.”  

I’ll let the words of Janice Bingham speak for themselves.  She’s our dear friend and co-worker, a nurse practitioner, who has been in Zambia with Harding University students this semester:


        “The Southern province of Zambia has experienced a significant drought.  Only about 1 out of 10 crops produced anything during the last harvest.   [One characteristic of Third World is that they have no stock or storage set aside for such disasters].  We hear of so many people suffering. So one Friday we loaded up several large sacks of corn meal and bags of beans and headed down some rough, dusty roads.  Most of the people we encountered were the elderly – weak and malnourished.  In the African culture it is the responsibility of the children to care for their aging parents, but many of the younger generation have died of AIDS, thus leaving many “elder orphans”, older people with no one to care for them.  One older woman, unable to walk due to extreme weakness, had come to meet us by traveling in an ox cart.  We came to a hut occupied by a man with polio – unable to walk because of atrophied and contracted legs. There was no family to help care for him.  He thanked us over and over for remembering him in his time of need. There was hardly a dry eye in the group as we drove away.  //  The next day we again came face to face with people in desperate need.  We went to a church where the people were told to meet us.  When we pulled in, a crowd of women came running out singing, clapping, and overwhelmed us with their welcome.  [In the Third World it’s the women who always come first – whether to church, to see a doctor, or to get food].  We had brought twenty 25kg bags of corn meal – one problem:  60 people were there.  Everyone got a portion.  As we sat on the bricks in the tiny church building, I had to wonder yet again, why did God chose to bless us?  ‘I don’t know.’ Now we know at least something of the plight of the poor, and I pray that these students will be motivated to dedicate their lives in service to the poor and down-trodden of this world. It is definitely what Jesus would do.”


In another letter from Janice she told me of an African man who cried [most unusual] because the Clinic had none of the heart medicine he so desperately needed.  Can you even imagine such a thing in America – not being able to get the medicine you needed.  She told of another teenager with severe rheumatic heart disease and heart failure, who desperately needed heart surgery in order to survive much longer.  Not possible there!!

I know I’m “preaching to the choir”, but let us keep our priorities in order and count our blessings and remember, “What Is Safe?”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Peace and a Red Coffee Cup by Mike DeCamp

Last year, when Kent Brantly said that he felt a “sense of peace” when he was first advised of the diagnosis of having Ebola himself, I think I sort of scratched my head and wondered how in the world that could even be possible.  How can a man get a death sentence—a sentence to die a horrifying, miserable death—and somehow be at peace?  I think I was a little in awe of him.  I was in awe of his faith that could provide him that peace.

As if this was somehow his own doing.

Anxiousness can be debilitating.  It can lock us up so that we can barely function.  It can cause us emotional, spiritual, and physical distress.  We can literally get ill from worry.  These days, it seems that potential sources of anxiety are hitting us from all sides.  Politics.  Elections.  Culture.  Terrorism.  Wars.  The color of coffee cups.

How do we find that sense of peace?

Would it help us if a certain coffee company printed “Peace on Earth” on the sides of their cups?  I doubt it.

Two things happened this week that have helped me better understand this whole “sense of peace” thing.

First, I was part of a meeting and discussion the other day that had the potential to be quite intense and I was very concerned, both about the way it would transpire and the outcome at the end.  This anxiety even affected the quality of how I slept the night before.  Frankly, despite my  best attempt to be faithful, I was worried about it.  Prior to the meeting, I did a little praying.  I asked God to help, and you know what?  All of the sudden, I was at peace about it.  I can’t explain it.  I just was.  Not only that, but the meeting actually went off very well.
I think it was a God thing.

Second, I related the following story about my dad to some friends as we discussed Veterans Day.
Ralph DeCamp is the first man on the left.
In World War Two, my dad served in the Army Air Corps.  He was a crewman on a B26 Martin Marauder flying out of North Africa and the Mediterranean.  He wasn’t a kid.  Rather, he was a man in his early thirties.  He didn’t tell me many stories from the war, only a handful.  One stands out, though.  He said that on his very first combat mission, he was scared to death—literally terrified.  I got the sense that he was nearly frozen with fear.  If you need help to understand why, try watching those scenes from the mini-series “Band of Brothers” where they were flying over Normandy to drop the paratroopers for D-Day.  That will give you an idea of what he was facing.  Anyway, as he struggled with his tremendous sense of terror, he prayed.

 “God,” he said, “please take away my fear.” 

My father told me that at that point, a sense of peace came over him.  He couldn't explain it.  It just happened.  As a result, not only could he fly with his crew and do his job, but when his own crew was idle, he began to fill in with other crews.  When men would find a reason to avoid a planned mission, he would volunteer to fly in their place.  He reached the required number of missions to be sent home long before the other men on his own crew, but instead of leaving them behind for the safety of home, he stayed.  He wouldn’t leave until they all could leave.  I have a document provided by a commanding officer that lists his missions--over seventy.  

Then he came home.

I used to be in awe of my father’s faith.  The faith that allowed him to be so brave.  Like he had something to do with it.

I’m proud of him, of that there is no doubt, and it was his faith that spurred my own.  However, this wasn’t about my dad.  It was a God thing.

Consider Philippians 4: 6-7....

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and you minds in Christ Jesus.

We may not know the answers, but God can still give us peace.  We may not understand where it comes from or how it even works, but God can put our hearts at rest.

So, let me just encourage you to turn to God the next time you’re feeling anxious.  If you’re worried about a test.  If you’re concerned about an election.  If you are bothered by the direction of our society.  If you’re frightened by world events.  Give it to God.

He’s got this.

Now, after all this, if you want to talk, I’m available.  If you need an ear to hear you, I’ve got a couple of them.  Give me a call.  I’d be glad to meet you at Starbucks for a cup of coffee.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Fresh Start by Clint Davis

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A Fresh Start

By Clint Davis


Jeff Walling tells the story from several years back when he was having some problems with his computer.   He had tried everything to get the problem resolved, but nothing worked so he had to call telephone tech support from the place where he bought the computer.  The person was very helpful, but after trying numerous fixes nothing worked.  And that is when the person said I think we are going to need to re-install your operating system.   Those are never the words you want to hear because that means you have to strip everything off the computer and start all over.  It is the only way to get a “fresh start”. 

At times, there are things that I don’t want to deal with that I must deal with in order to get a fresh start in my life.  Sometimes I want to just press a button.  I want to find the Staples “EASY” button to press and suddenly my problem is solved or my life will be different, but it does not work that way. 

From the start of creation, humanity started corrupting itself with the virus of SIN.  Our natural reaction when we do something wrong has not changed.  Our first reaction is to cover-up because we do not want someone to see the “real me”.  We want to hide it.  If we make a mistake or have an accident our reaction is to run away and hide. 

I remember several years back, Karen and I were getting ready to head out on a short vacation to Mexico.  We were in the airport terminal and my phone rang.   It was Chandelle.  She had been in a parking garage and hit a parked vehicle; actually she had ripped the bumper off the parked car.  She was not sure what to do.  I have to be completely honest and say that my first thought was to tell her to take off and not tell anyone.  But that was not the right thing to do.  We talked and I told her to leave a note to have the person give me a call so we could pay for the damage.  She did, and the person called me and we paid for the damage.

How do we get a fresh start when we have made a mess, when we have made a mistake, when we have sinned?

We have to realize, that we cannot fix it. Covering it up will not fix it and lying about it will not fix it.  Running away from it and rationalizing it will not fix it.  It can only be fixed by God.  In Jesus, God gave us a new beginning, a fresh install.  We just need the courage to accept it from Him.

I think it was Bob Herndon that gave an analogy that trying to cover up your sin is like being in a swimming pool with several balls where you are constantly trying to keep them all under water at the same time so they cannot be seen.  It can never last and you grow weary.

Psalm 32 describes a new beginning and fresh start for David.  It starts painfully….Blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no deceit.  The picture here is that a person has to carry around their deceit/ sin like a bag around their neck for all to see.  David tried to carry his deceit and not let it be known, and the passage says his bones wasted away from his groaning all day long.  Carrying the burden of his sin wore him out.  David kept trying to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba to the point that he literally committed murder for having Uriah purposefully killed in battle.  But God sent Nathan to convict him of his sin and David confessed his sin to the Lord and God “forgave the guilt of his sin”.  David tried something else; he acknowledged his sin to God and did not cover up his iniquity.

To have a fresh start today, have the courage to accept the gift of God’s grace.  God will forgive you and his grace will lead you to different life choices.

Stop running and lying and covering and hiding and say to the Lord this is who I am….please forgive me.

Titus 3: He saved us because of His mercy…He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of His Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Savior. He saved us because of His grace.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ocean Depths Praise the Lord by Craig Hill

Ocean Depths Praise the Lord

Craig Hill

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths . . . Psalms 148: 7

When my home office, my laptop, my phone calls, my work get too much for me, one of my favorite things to do is to go see nature. You know, God’s creations. God’s creations are amazing.

I like to go canoeing on the White River down from 146th Street in Carmel. The river is always beautiful, barely touching civilization for the first 2 or 3 miles, which is a long canoe ride.

Putting in under the bridge at 5am on a cold winter day to go duck hunting with my Son Zach, Daughter Rachel, my Nephew Jacob, or my friend Fred Carter is something. You get all your gear in the canoe, tie it down in case you capsize, make sure your life vest is snug over your chest waders and heavy camo coat, and you push off. You push off with one foot and step in with the other, and into the current. It’s dark. The water envelops the canoe all around. The current takes you in and the flow laps on the side of the canoe about 8 inches down the gunwale. You know the river is in control now, and you are paddling at its behest. You are safe, dry, and warm, except your nose, which is cold. But you know the river can take you down if it wants to.

It’s not deep, like the ocean depths, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s still dangerous. At 24°F, your in chest waders and there’s rocks under the water big enough to tip you over if you hit them the wrong way, and it is 3 to 8 feet deep there. Over 6 feet it doesn’t matter, you can’t touch the bottom. Thrill seeker? Maybe, but I just do it to get away from the modern world and feel closer to God.

God is all around me. He’s all around me in my home office too, but on the river in these conditions (or any conditions for that matter) it is more apparent to my feeble mind that I am in God’s hands. If He wants me to stay dry, I will. If He wants me to get wet, I will get wet. If he wants me to almost die from hypothermia and have my paddling partner save me with a big roaring fire, then that will happen too. I know that I only pass through the 5am darkness down the gently flowing river at God’s discretion – you know with His grace.

It’s kind of a physical metaphor of God’s grace for my sins. He lets me have salvation despite my sins if I believe in Jesus. I feel more in touch with God, in His surroundings. Man made my home office, but God made the river!

And the river praises Him. It was made by God! The 3 foot long catfish that swim under it were made by God. The buck we saw when I asked Rachel to turn on the flood light to get a bearing – the buck is God’s creation. The barred owl that usually hoots at us nuts in the canoe in the dark – the owl is God’s creation. And the pack of coyotes that starts howling just before we get to our duck hunting island – the coyotes are God’s creations. They all praise out to God. They all are lifting their voices, their presence, their form, to praise God. And I see God in who these creations are.

And I see God in the river. The river praises God in how beautiful it is. The river praises God in how cold it is, in how massive the flowing water is all around me, in how gracious it is to gently let me pass, despite my fear and respect for it – just like God. He is strong, he is loving and gracious. He is dangerous, holding the key to life, the key to time, the key to everlasting life in His hands.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea creatures and all ocean depths, lighting and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. Praise the Lord.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I learned While Driving (Only Briefly) Above My Pay Grade by Greg York

What I Learned While Driving (Only Briefly) Above My Pay Grade          


No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

–Jesus, in Matthew 6.24


A little over a month ago I stumbled into (was led into?) a very informative experience; here’s what happened:


The 1991 Nissan Maxima I drive seems to need something major done to keep it moving along once a year or so. That’s to be expected. And (so far) it is still less expensive than 12 months’ worth of car payments a year. It was leaking a couple of bodily fluids and the diagnosis indicated that it was going to require some parts that needed to be ordered and shipped in (I have no idea why so few places are not well-stocked with parts for vehicles twenty-five years old…). It was all going to take about three days and so I was going to need a rental vehicle.


As it happened, there were none available at the dealer, but they arranged for me to pick one up at a rental place up the street. Apparently, they wanted whatever vehicle I was given to be a Nissan. Advertising, I suppose.


At the rental place, apparently there was only one Nissan available at that time.


And that is how I came to spend three days tooling around in a 370z.



As fun as it was to drive such a vehicle (and it was, in fact, great fun!), it was the various reactions to Greg-in-a-370z that I found most thought-provoking.



Predictably, there was some gentle ribbing about my less-than-graceful entrances and exits from the car (although, in fairness to myself, I got better at it over the three days…). It was not designed with 55-year-old fat men in mind.



And, among those who assumed I had purchased the car, there were comments (only a couple of which seemed to have truly sharp edges to them) that clearly “we’re paying our preacher too much.”


(I have to admit, though, it felt pretty cool that anyone thought I might actually have taken leave of my senses long enough to purchase such a vehicle…)


Kaelan enjoyed riding around in it with me and we even took the long way home a couple of times just to do it. Maybe for a few moments (at least until he learned it was only a rental) I was actually a neat person to have as a dad, not the kind of guy who drives a car that will soon technically qualify as a “classic” (a car he probably fears he will “inherit”). He told me he thought I should keep the 370z. I told him that if we did, his brothers would have to come home from school and he might not be able to go to college at all. He may still be thinking it over.


I guess my own internal reactions, though, were the most instructive, the most revealing spiritually.


Why did it make me feel, well, younger, more alive, to be driving around in such a car? (Don’t suggest “mid-life crisis,” unless you think I’m living to 110…)


Why did I enjoy being seen driving it?


Why did it make me feel a little more “with it,” more special?


And, why did I like feeling that way so much?


Whatever else it might be, the 370z is just a car, a material object that will decay, rust, and eventually be no more. It will not last, and therefore any meaning I give it or any value I derive from it cannot be lasting.



Now, I know all that in my head. But behind the wheel of a 370z (mediocre gas mileage and all), it was so easy to forget.


And, why, by the way, do I not allow myself to feel all those things because I know that God loves me, Jesus died for me, and the Spirit lives within me? Really? I’ll let a car do that for me, but not God?


I’m not saying it’s a sin to own a nice vehicle or to derive pleasure from the things we possess or are fortunate enough to use. On the contrary: I believe God meant for us to enjoy things. (And my personal opinion is that sometimes the better part of stewardship is not to “go cheap,” but to pay on the front end for something that is of a quality that will have long-lasting usefulness.) But God is extremely clear that he does not want us to define our lives by material things. Again, God meant for us to enjoy things, but he did not mean for us to be controlled by them. So, we have to be vigilant. The material has such a powerful pull on our hearts. And if we are not careful, it can be bait concealing a hook that will get set in our hearts to pull us away from what is of lasting value, true value.


…we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;

for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

 2 Corinthians 4.18